While any translation of the Scriptures may in Hebrew be called a targum, the word is used especially for a translation of a book of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic. Before the Christian era, Aramaic had in good part replaced Hebrew in Palestine as the vernacular of the Jews. It continued as their vernacular for centuries later and remained in part as the language of the schools after Aramaic itself had been replaced as the vernacular.
One approach to Chronicles would suggest that it was not considered an altogether vital component in the canon, but later it came to play a specific interpretative role. Others suggest that it came to be regarded as the authorized version of the history of Israel.
In the Jewish liturgical tradition the Book of Ruth is read at the festival of Shavuot, or Pentecost, and it may be conjectured that the Targum originated in conjunction with this practice. The Targum of Ruth exists in a large number of manuscripts; the eight used in the present work are of European provenance.
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Nothing can replace a scholar’s firsthand interaction with an ancient text in the original language. But insofar as this volume and the series as a whole can serve as a catalyst to direct attention to the targumim, they represent a worthy effort.
—Journal of Biblical Literature
Derek Robert George Beattie is lecturer in Hebrew and Semitic studies at Trinity College in Dublin.
J. Stanley McIvor translated and edited the targums on the Chronicles in The Aramaic Bible series.